The Boston Red Sox continue to say that right-hander Josh Beckett will be fine. But the pitcher on Tuesday will join teammate Andrew Bailey in Cleveland to see Dr. Thomas Graham, a hand specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, according to major-league sources.
The team wants Beckett to visit Graham for “peace of mind” and still expects him to pitch the second game of the season, sources say. But the visit will mark the second time in two days that Beckett has seen a hand specialist for a thumb problem – he was in San Antonio on Monday to see Dr. Mark Bagg.
Bailey, too, is suffering from a thumb problem, and team doctors in Boston determined on Monday that he will require surgery, according to the Boston Globe. Graham will offer a second opinion on Bailey Tuesday. After that, the team will make a final determination.
The loss of Bailey for a significant length of time would be damaging to the Red Sox, who lost free-agent closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Philadelphia Phillies during the off-season. The loss of Beckett on top of Bailey would compromise the team even further.
Beckett, who turns 32 on May 15, threw a 100-pitch bullpen Sunday, manager Bobby Valentine told reporters. The pitcher did not miss a miss a start this spring, allowing just two earned runs in 19 innings. But Valentine said Beckett had a “little history” with his thumb.
The Red Sox are confident in Beckett, left-hander Jon Lester and right-hander Clay Buchholz as their top three starters. They staged a competition for the fourth and fifth spots all spring, ultimately awarding them to lefty Felix Doubront and righty Daniel Bard.
The absence of Bailey, however, could force the Sox to rethink their bullpen, and perhaps even move Bard, their former setup man, back into a late-inning role. The team’s immediate plan could be to use right-handers Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon in the eighth and ninth innings.
But Aceves, one of the pitchers who competed for a starting job, said Monday that Valentine had told him to be ready to start the second game of the season if Beckett was not ready. Prior to that, it had not been known that Beckett had a thumb problem.